Jason Vander Grintt, 40, brings in about $2 million in annual revenue in his solopreneur business, backed by a loyal team of contractors. And he does it while traveling the world, making his home in a two-bedroom apartment in Toronto at the Four Seasons. He has visited 60 countries since launching his career, JCad International, which produces 3D rendering of products and components, and Render 3D Quick, which creates photorealistic digital representations of real estate. He founded JCad in 2006 as a side hustle, working in corporate jobs until he was sure he could replace his salary. JCAD now brings in 30% of its revenue, with Render 3D Quick, founded in 2013, generating the rest.
Vander Grindt is part of two trends that put him on the bleeding edge of economic change. For many years, a multimillion-dollar one-person business—also known as a “non-employer” business in US government parlance—has operated with no employees other than the owners. He relies on over 50 experienced contractors, some of whom have their own teams, in countries around the world, paying them up to 4x market rates.
Million-dollar sole proprietorships have increased annually in recent history, with 43,012 breaking into the $1 million to $2.49 million income category in 2019 (the most recent year for which census statistics are available), up from 41,666. In 2018, 2,553 of the most efficient companies made between $2.5 million and $4.99 million in revenue, and 388 made $5 million or more in revenue.
Vander Grint are also digital nomads, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. In the US, 16.9 million American workers describe themselves as digital nomads, up 8% from 2021 and up 131% from 2019. These are employees who work and live remotely from anywhere in the Internet-connected world. The Digital Nomads Report 2022 was prepared by MBO Partners, a provider of back office services for freelancers, and Contingency Research.
Some digital nomads are self-employed freelancers and entrepreneurs like Vander Griendt. About two-thirds of workers have been allowed to work remotely during the pandemic.
What drives the trend? One early but continuing source of inspiration for many – including Vander Grint – is Tim Ferriss and the lifestyle he describes. 4-hour work weekPublished in 2007. “Tim Ferris was ahead of his time,” said Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners.
The pandemic has also played a role, with technology rapidly improving and more companies embracing remote work. The desire to get outside the four walls that many of us spent the pandemic in also played a role.
“A lot of people want to travel now that the pandemic is over,” said Steve King, a partner at Emergency Research. “We’re seeing a continuation of the need and desire to get out and do things with more people coming out of Covid. Almost all of them are telling us that they do some international travel, but most of the time they spend during the year is more domestically focused. One of the fastest growing sub-segments is the ‘van-liner’—people in RVs and vans. Most digital nomads are part of the slow travel movement.
This could be worrisome for things to come, with Gen Z and millennial workers making up two-thirds of digital nomads, according to Everson. “If you’re thinking about your workforce plan as a company, understanding how you’re doing to embrace and motivate digital nomads should be part of your core strategy,” says Everson.
It remains to be seen if the tax laws will hold. It is difficult for employers to pay taxes if their employees spend part of the year in other countries or in their own country. “Companies are just starting to realize this,” King says. It also says immigration laws limit visits to other countries within three months.
Despite the current restrictions, Vander Grindt created a lifestyle that was all about freedom. “I don’t have a program,” he says. “I do what I want. I can do it when I want, where I want.” , a one-man business owner” and “He 3-D printed his way to a million dollar, one-man business.
On a normal day, he wakes up at 8 or 9 am. Then he took an hour to answer emails that came in overnight (unless they were answered with the automated templates he uses to streamline communication). Vander Grintt, who tends to avoid industrial-era construction such as team meetings, does away with them, instead writing to any contractors he wants to reach by email and then sending completed work to clients. “Then I have a coffee, relax, go to the gym,” he says. “I’m going to the spa and the steam room.”
During the week, he reads three books per week, highlighting his favorite business books on his Instagram account (@jasonvandergriendt). Some of his picks are: Genghis Khan and the creation of the modern world By Jack Weatherford, A few lessons for investors and managers By Warren Buffet, and The top 5 regrets of dying In the firmware.
He realized that living in an apartment in a hotel is ideal for an entrepreneurial lifestyle, which is a constant flow of other businessmen. “It’s a great place to meet like-minded people,” he said.
He also spent a lot of time finding and developing relationships with his contractors, mostly on the freelance platform Upwork. He typically tests them with a small test project, which takes about five minutes, saying, “Do this on the left side. Place this on the right side. Make this blue and make this red. If they get the project back and follow the instructions, they will be entrusted with a more advanced, paid project.
During his career, he traveled to Eastern Europe and the world to meet his contractors and their families. In August, he traveled to London, Italy, Greece and the Turks and Caicos, combining business and pleasure on a trip that allowed him to meet contractors and clients.
All of his main contractors have started their own businesses, often employing other contractors in their own countries. His relationship with the team, which includes many contractors who have been with him over the years, goes beyond the usual outsourcing relationship.
When Vander Grintt learned that one of the contractors in Ukraine had to work at night because a local power station had been bombed and there were restrictions on electricity use, he bought a generator for a team member. When another had to move to an apartment after his house was destroyed in a bomb blast – then the apartment was destroyed – he paid the contractor a full month’s salary, so that the contractor could have a new place to live.
He knew his covenants well and included them in his last will and testament. “During the covid period, I thought that if I accidentally left as a child, many people would depend on me and suddenly have no source of income,” he said. “That’s not fair to them, so my state class would have equaled them. They’ve done so much for me so it’s the least I can do for them as they move on.
Those strong relationships helped position the business for growth. Sales tripled during the pandemic, while marketing costs dropped. “When covid hit, most of my competitions were closed. “We were all working remotely. We didn’t have to shut down. The competition on Google was down like crazy. Everyone shut down their Google ads.”
He works on the Pareto Principle, realizing that 80% of output comes from 20% of inputs. He pays close attention to this issue when he gets a client question, “Am I one of the 20% of clients who give me 80% of my income, or the ones who waste 80% of my time?” he asks himself.
The continued success of Vander Griendt’s business is a good sign for other digital nomads who want to live free from the problems of the past and embrace the freedom the Internet brings – for themselves and others. Company from other nomads. As Everson says, “This population is only going to continue to grow.